Bronchiectasis Information For Schools

Bronchiectasis Information For Schools

School is really important for children with bronchiectasis. Teachers can make a significant difference.

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Key points to remember about children with bronchiectasis and school

  • bronchiectasis is a chest disease
  • school is really important for children with bronchiectasis
  • children with bronchiectasis need to cough - it is vital to get rid of the mucus
  • involvement in sports and exercise helps children with bronchiectasis - it's OK if they cough

What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is not contagious - a child with bronchiectasis can't pass it on to other children.

Bronchiectasis is a chest disease - the airways in the lungs have become damaged and scarred.

The airways (or breathing tubes) become widened and mucus gets trapped in pockets within the airway. Having extra mucus in the airways means bacteria and viruses can grow quickly and cause infections.

These infections cause damage and more scarring to the airways and lungs. Once this has happened, the scarring is usually lifelong. But, with good treatment, there can be some improvement and further damage prevented. Good treatment is especially important in young children because their lungs are still growing.

What causes bronchiectasis?

Most children get bronchiectasis after having a very bad chest infection or repeated chest infections. 

What are the signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis?

Children with bronchiectasis feel well most of the time.

Wet-sounding cough

A wet-sounding cough is the main symptom and usually lasts for weeks. Extra mucus (phlegm or sputum) in the airways causes the cough and the child may spit or cough up some of this mucus. 

This cough can get worse during infections, first thing in the morning and during exercise. Remember though that exercise and playing sport is helpful for keeping well.

How do children with bronchiectasis keep well?

Things that will help a child with bronchiectasis stay well:

  • regular physiotherapy to keep the child's lungs clear of mucus
  • regular exercise and sport
  • a healthy balanced diet
  • keeping children away from any cigarette smoke
  • a flu vaccine every year

How can I tell if a child with bronchiectasis is sick?

When children with bronchiectasis become unwell, they cough more and the mucus can change colour from clear to yellow or dark green. The mucus can sometimes be smelly. They may lose their appetite and feel tired.

If you notice any of the following in a child with bronchiectasis, talk to the student and their whānau:

  • a bad cold with a runny green nose
  • coughing more than normal
  • a cough that is wetter than usual
  • more mucus which is darker, thicker or smelly
  • breathing faster than normal
  • a fever
  • pain in the chest
  • tired and not eating or drinking as well as normal
  • unable to take part in sport and exercise

Dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help if a child with bronchiectasis becomes suddenly unwell, and is having difficulty talking because they are short of breath or they have blue lips or tongue.

How can teachers help a child with bronchiectasis at school?

Exercise will help a child with bronchiectasis - it's OK if they cough.

School is really important for children with bronchiectasis. Teachers can make a significant difference.

  • children with bronchiectasis need to cough - it is vital to get rid of the mucus -  let them leave the room for this if they want
  • involvement in sports and exercise helps children with bronchiectasis - it's OK if they cough
  • support your student if they need to take medicine at school
  • a child with bronchiectasis can go on school camps and trips

Supporting learning when a child is unwell

You can support your student's edcuation by providing school work if they're too unwell to come to school.

Some children with bronchiectasis will have education support from the regional hospital schools. 

Communication and privacy

Some children, especially teenagers, do not want their friends to know they are unwell. It can help to have clear communication with the student and family - so you are aware of any changing needs and can provide work during absences.

More information for schools and preschools

You can check The New Zealand Bronchiectasis Foundation website for:

Acknowledgements

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledges the cooperation of the Starship Respiratory Service at Starship Children's Health and the Paediatric Department, University of Auckland in making this content available to patients and families.

This page last reviewed 22 February 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it